SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — The face of Feeding South Dakota will become less visible in the community after this summer. Longtime CEO Matt Gassen has announced he’s retiring after more than two decades with the organization.
Matt Gassen has overseen Feeding South Dakota’s growing outreach from his Sioux Falls office since 2002. But he says it’s the right time to step aside and make way for new leadership.
“I’m blessed with thirteen grandkids, nine of those who live in Sioux Falls. And, they’re getting to that age where they’re getting more and more involved with activities and I want to be able to help,” Gassen said.
Gassen says the challenges brought on by the pandemic also influenced his decision to retire.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was part of one of those factors that helped me make the decision. It’s hard, at my age, it was a tough year,” Gassen said.
Feeding South Dakota’s board of directors will hire an outside firm to help find Gassen’s replacement. The non-profit’s Finance Director, Sue Willard, says they’ll be big shoes to fill.
“Matt, you’ll see him on a fork lift, you’ll see him giving presentations, he does it all,” Willard said.
When Gassen started with Feeding South Dakota, the non-profit served mostly as an emergency source of food for families. But its mission changed with the recession in 2008 as families needed food over a longer period of time.
“And I think the pandemic is just kind of another boost to the recession of 2008, the people that were impacted by this pandemic, are going to be with us for a long time,” Gassen said.
As the pandemic has further increased the demand for healthy meals for families in-need, Gassen is confident Feeding South Dakota will step up to the challenge, as he steps down.
“There’s people that still need to be fed and we just can’t let off the gas, this organization has got to keep pressing forward,” Gassen said.
Gassen says the highlights of his time as CEO include the merger of food banks in Sioux Falls and Rapid City back in 2004, and more recently, starting the backpack program that provides free meals to South Dakota school kids.